First drive: Honda CR-V Diesel

THE MISSION here is not to refer to Honda’s first SUV diesel as the CR-VD – least of all because it is something you might actually want to acquire.

Yep, the new CR-V Diesel is proof that the Japanese company is finally awakening from a half-decade slumber.

On sale now from $38,290 plus on-road costs – or from $40,590 for the automatic versions that 90-plus per cent of customers are actually going to choose – the all-wheel-drive-only Diesel represents a robust challenge to the market-leading Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV-4 and Subaru Forester.

It is also the first Honda diesel with an automatic transmission option in Australia.

After an all-too short stint behind the wheel of the base DTi-S manual and up-spec DTi-L auto, we reckon the others have a pretty formidable foe on their hands. After all, the petrol versions have put the fourth-gen CR-V to number four in the medium SUV charts.

Sourced from England, the Diesel is virtually identical to the Thai-tailored petrol-powered CR-Vs bar its fancier headlights (with daytime running lamps), a grey grille, altered tail-light lenses (with LEDs) and differing trims and materials inside. No more woodgrain applique, apparently. That’s a decisive victory for taste.

Quality seems to have also taken a turn for the better, with none of the window rattles that we encountered when the RM-series first surfaced in late 2012. Better still, the dreaded foot-operated park brake throwback on regular auto CR-Vs has made way for a proper (manually operated) handbrake.

Snappily dubbed i-CTDi (Intelligent Common-rail Turbocharged Direct injection), the 2.2-litre twin-cam four-cylinder i-DTEC diesel produces 110kW of power and 350Nm of torque… outputs the 129kW/420Nm CX-5 SkyActiv-D equivalent beats soundly, but that are otherwise on-pace with the rest of the midsized SUV diesel set.

Whether paired to the smooth short-throw six-speed manual gearbox (our choice) or surprisingly fluent five-speed automatic, the CR-V Diesel steps off the line quickly, cleanly, and with a quietness that really is quite uncanny.

Though it runs out of puff at 4500rpm, the i-DTEC feels and sounds revvy like a Honda engine should – yet with sufficient mid-range reach to haul this hefty (1664-1723kg) SUV along at a satisfyingly stirring rate of knots.

Driven with gusto, we averaged an indicated 7.8L/100km in the top-line DTi-L auto (from $45,340), which isn’t too removed from the official 6.9L/100km; the manual manages 5.8L/100km – impressive until you realise the CX-5 auto betters the lot.

The Diesel’s launch program consisted entirely of straight and extremely dry country roads around Wagga, with little variation and virtually no corners to really ascertain the effects of the weighty derv donk up front.

Never a great communicator, the CR-V’s electric power steering feels as light and detached as it always has, yet still responds quickly enough when required to help keep everything in control. The Diesel’s handling remains true to the AWD petrol versions’ planted and secure ways – though determining ride quality would require further wheel time.

A fast run over loose gravel did remind us of the electronic stability control’s curiously tardy at first and then heavy-handed reactions. Nothing and then… bang!

Overall, then, as with most medium SUVs, bar the feisty Ford Kuga and CX-5, there is little that would appeal to a keen driver in this vehicle – but that is not what a CR-V is all about.

Keenly priced and equipped (all models include alloys, sat-nav, a reverse camera and rear parking sensors while the DTi-L adds goodies such as remote entry/start, front parking sensors, bi-xenon headlights with a cornering function, heated front seats and roof rails), the Diesel should boost the 17-year old nameplate’s appeal effortlessly, but we still reckon that calling it the CR-VD would spread the good word around even quicker.

Honda CR-V DTi-S

Plus Gutsy, quiet and frugal drivetrain, roomy and practical cabin
Minus Dull dynamics, unsubtle ESC on dirt
Engine 2199cc, in-line, 4 cylinder, dohc, turbo-diesel
Max power 110kW @ 4000rpm
Max torque 350Nm @ 2000-2750rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual/5-speed auto
Weight 1664/1723kg
0-100km/h 10.6/11.5sec
Price From $38,290
On sale Now

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  • Sounds horrible, but it's a soft roader so people will buy it. Yuk.